The best use of your time


Simon and Garfunkel said it best (although I prefer The Bangles’ version):

Time time time, see what’s become of me.

We are a product of what we choose to do with our time.

It’s our most precious resource, but we don’t often respect it as such.

We fritter it away as if it’s worth nothing – seemingly unaware of it’s power and value.

There are so many activities and distractions which appear free, but for the time they require.

What we don’t realise, is that time is the primary investment we’re making, in anything. Money comes and goes, but time only goes. There is no way of getting more when we’re running low.

Perhaps this is what makes it difficult. We can never really know how much time we have, so we’re unable to properly value it.

According to the Death Clock, I have about 18 000 days left to run, but even if that’s true, it’s not an easy number to work with. It’s hard to know how to use that information to make better decisions.

We always have trouble valuing things we can’t see, or touch, or roll around in our hands. I’m sure God (if she exists) would agree.

And I’m not saying that we should hoard our time, or be miserly with it when it comes to others, but we should spent it deliberately and wisely.

We should guard against the mass of minutes we give away mindlessly to the activities and pursuits which make life better for nobody. Not ourselves, not our friends, not the strangers around us.

Now that you’ve read this – great. But what’s the next, best use or your precious time?

I’d like to say it’s reading another one of my posts, but that’s complete bullshit. There’s undoubtably someone important to you who doesn’t know how much you care about them.

Why not make telling them, a conscious, deliberate, use of your precious time?

Ambushed by time

Well, that’s the first half of the year, done.

I don’t know why I am surprised by the passage of time, but I am. Constantly.

This is in contrast my kids who think that time is dragging it heels.

“We’ve got places to go, people to be.”

They want time to speed up so that they can become the people they want to be.

I want time to slow down for the same reason.

We all miss the reality of the situation, which is that who we are is defined now, not tomorrow.

But putting the emphasis on “now” puts accountability, ownership and responsibility on us. Right now. Some days that’s empowering, others it’s a burden.

The skill is to be able to move from the latter to the former, and then to do something constructive with it.

Thankfully, in most cases, that’s just a case of paying careful attention to the situation, and putting one foot in front of the other.

Making space for what’s important

Tessellated Pavement by Daniel Sallai

There are things in our lives which sit very close to our core, that are tied intrinsically to our sense of self.

It’s important that we give them space to breathe, because amongst everything else in our lives, they’re our form of self expression. They’re our self actualisation.

The trouble is, they’re often not be tied to other people, and therefore will not make it onto our lists of obligation or necessity on any given day.

These things won’t make the kids dinner, or write the report for the boss, or ask your partner how their day was – but they’re important, because they will allow us to feel sense of satisfaction.

We can do everything in the world, but if we don’t take the time to identify and explore the things that are important to us, then we won’t be happy.

Mine is creating something for other people. It doesn’t matter if it’s cooking, writing, stand-up or knitting (that’s right, knit one, purl two mothers**kers) – I need to create something others can enjoy in order to feel a full sense of satisfaction. And I need to do it every day.

I don’t get paid for any of those things on a regular enough basis for them to satisfy any of the obligations or necessities I have – so I have to carve out and protect time for them. I have to make space for them, because they’re important.

At the moment, this means getting up before I’m ready, and writing. It’s a good option for me because it both requires little in the way of raw materials, and there is no upper limit to the number of people who can enjoy it. Double tick.

The rest of the day can go to hell – the kids can be grumpy, work can be a nightmare, I can get sick – but nothing can touch the satisfaction of self actualisation. And that creates a massive source of resilience in the face of adversity.

Conversely, the day can go swimmingly, but if I haven’t carved out the time to write (or create in another way), then it’s so much more difficult to feel an authentic sense of satisfaction with what’s been done.

So if you want time for what’s important, you’re first going to have make choices between what feels good at the time and what’s close to your core. What will give you the lasting satisfaction? Netflix might feel good, but will it make you resilient against a shitty day? Will it let you experience your fullest self? If so, great news. If not, dig a little deeper.

The second thing to do, is to know that no one is going to just give you extra time. You’re going to have to carve it out of there day with a knife and know that others will swoop on it like seagulls on hot chips.

It sounds like a lot of work, this delivering deep, meaningful, satisfaction stuff. And it is. But that’s what gives it value.

It also gets easier the more you do it.

There aren’t many things in life which will let you face headlong into a shitty day with a smile on your face, so when you find one, make time for it. Because, it’s important.

Doing more with whatever is available

Lime - Squeezed

What do you do with a little chunk of time?

Try to get the big thing done, or find something which will easily fit in?

The problem with fitting things easily into the time available, is that it relies on always having more time available than you need for any given task.

And life just doesn’t work like that.

If you only write when you have the time to write a good piece, you’ll never write at all.

Effort is like a gas (or video games) it will expand to will expand to fill the available space.

Sometimes you have to jam a big task into a small amount of time. To compress the work and force the mechanisms to put more into the system.

To overclock the computer.

To sprint.

Look at the list and don’t find the task which fits the slot with a need buffer.

Go 80/20 on a big task and get as much of it at you can into the tiny space.

When you do more than you think you could in a shorter space of time, you’ve just managed to supercharge the one thing you can’t get any more of.

At least once a day, don’t find the easy task which will fit. Don’t skip the valuable thing, because you don’t have the time. At least once a day, try to break the laws of physics and get something done in less time that it should take.

At least once a day, try to compress. Overclock. Sprint.